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Chillblast Fusion Nano 970 review

Michael Passingham
20 Jan 2016
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,000
inc VAT

The Fusion Nano 970 manages unbeatable compact PC performance in a tiny package

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (4.4GHz Turbo overclock), RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 3x USB3, 1x USB3.1, Total storage: 256GB M.2 SSD, 2TB hard disk, Graphics card: 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, Display: None, Operating system: Windows 10

Want the power and flexibility of a desktop PC but dislike the hulking boxes that are usually associated with them? Then a compact PC like this one from Chillblast might be just the thing. The Chillblast's Fusion Nano 970  may be small, but it's also cool and relatively quiet, as it comes with a sizeable water-cooling kit to cope with a hefty processor overclock, just like the similar Wired2Fire HaL Skylake. Unlike the Wired2Fire PC, this model comes in one of the smallest cases (by volume) of any of the compact performance PCs we've tested, making for a seriously impressive-looking build, both internally and externally.

Take a look at our Best PCs buying guide

We've seen the windowed Raijintek Metis case before, but this time it has a blue paint job. The brushed metallic finish looks fantastic in blue, but there are also red, green, grey, black and gold variations available.

Thanks to the case's perspex window, you're constantly reminded of the challenges faced when building a PC this small. Looking through the window, a little more than a third of the motherboard is visible, with the large liquid cooler and PSU obstructing either side of it, while the graphics card sits upside-down (fan-up), completely obscuring the rest of the board. The power supply is mounted at the front of the case with its fan facing inwards to suck in air. At the rear sits the Corsair liquid cooler, which draws heat away from the processor via two large hoses. It ejects heat through the radiator and into a 140mm exhaust fan right at the back of the case.

Chillblast has cut a hole in the top of the case to allow the graphics card to dispel heat directly up. The cut is cleanly masked by black plastic rim and a grille to prevent accidental access to the fan's blades. Up here you'll also find two USB3 ports and two 3.5mm audio jacks nearer the front of the case. There's no optical drive, and no space for one either. You'll need a USB disc drive if you want to play Blu-Rays or DVDs.

The system builders' favourite processor, the quad-core Intel Core i5-6600K, has here been overclocked to a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.4GHz. This is a decent overclock up from the standard 3.9GHz Turbo Boost. An overall score of 136 in our benchmarks shows how effective this overclock is. Thanks to its liquid cooling, the processor never got warm enough to have to throttle back its clock speed during even the most intensive sections of our benchmarks.

Gaming wasn't a problem for the PC's 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card, which showed top-notch performance in all our gaming tests. However, there were some rather concerning noises coming from inside the chassis during the benchmarks. For starters, during the Dirt Showdown benchmark we heard a lot of coil whine from the 750W Corsair power supply. This isn't the first time we've heard coil whine from a power supply when playing Dirt Showdown, and we haven't yet managed to recreate it in our other benchmarks, but it's still a problem worth highlighting - especially when you consider that most other mini PCs we've tested don’t have this problem.

The second problem appeared when running the Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark. While the Fusion Nano 970 achieved an excellent 45.1fps in the test, we once again found ourselves with our ears up against the case, listening out for a different noise. Metro is our most challenging gaming benchmark, so we'd expect both the processor and graphics card to be put under pressure, and to our ears the noise - which sounded mechanical - seemed to be coming from the liquid cooler pump. With the case on and the PC a few feet away you probably won't notice it, but since this tiny PC is probably going to find itself in many compact desktop situations, any noise it does make could be an irritation. Even without the mechanical sound, the noise of the various fans are louder than you'd get from some other, better-insulated chassis.

The Gigabyte Z170N-Gaming 5 motherboard has built-in Wi-Fi, with two connectors attaching to a dongle, giving you access to dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi connections and a maximum speed of 876Mbps. There are just three USB3 ports at the rear, which rather limits your ambitions if you have lots of peripherals unless you want to use a dock or hub. A fourth full-size USB3.1 port is also present, and is backwards compatible with other USB devices. There's also a USB3 type-C connector, although there aren't many peripherals on the market that support this new, reversible port standard. There's also Gigabit Ethernet, five 3.5mm audio jacks and an optical audio port. A 256GB Samsung M.2 SSD is employed as the system drive, while a 2TB 2.5in Toshiba hard disk sits in the remaining free slot as a bulk storage device.

You get Chillblast's excellent five-year warranty with this PC. It includes two years of parts cover, and the company will pay for the transportation cost. For the final three years, just labour is included.

The Chillblast Fusion Nano 970 is a fantastic-looking and powerful compact PC. It's expensive, though, especially when you consider the admittedly larger Wired2Fire HaL Skylake is even faster. If space-saving is your priority, however, you'll find nothing more powerful at this size and price.

Core specs
ProcessorQuad-core 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (4.4GHz Turbo overclock)
Processor socketLGA1151
RAM8GB
Memory typeDDR4
Maximum memory32GB
MotherboardGigabyte Z170N-Gaming 5
Motherboard chipsetZ170
Ports and expansion
Front USB ports2x USB3
Rear USB ports3x USB3, 1x USB3.1
Other ports1x PS/2
Networking1x 10/100/1000, 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Case typeMini-ITX
Case dimensions HxWxD254x190x277mm
PCI (free)None
PCIe x1 (free)None
PCIe x16 (free)1 (0)
Serial ATA (free)6 (5)
Memory slots (free)2 (0)
Drive bays 2 1/2" (free)1 (0)
Drive bays 3 1/2" (free)None
Drive bays 5 1/4" (free)None
Storage
Total storage256GB M.2 SSD, 2TB hard disk
Memory card readerNone
Optical drive typeNone
Graphics
Graphics card4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Graphics/video ports2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort
Sound
Sound cardRealtek ALC1150 (integrated)
Sound card outputs5x 3.5mm, S/PDIF
SpeakersNone
Display
DisplayNone
Native resolutionN/A
InputsN/a
Other hardware
KeyboardNone
MouseNone
ExtrasNone
Software
Operating systemWindows 10
Operating system restore optionWindows 10 restore
Buying information
WarrantyFive years including two years of parts and collect and return
Price including delivery (inc VAT)£999
Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)N/A
Supplierwww.chillblast.com
Detailswww.chillblast.com
Part CodeFusion Nano 970